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Young person’s guide to Stalin

Martin Amis's Koba is another exhibitionist work-yet endearing and instructive. A Harry Pottering among the ruins of 20th-century political illusions

By Frederic Raphael   October 2002

Book: Koba the Dread Author: Martin Amis Price: Jonathan Cape £16.99

What have we here? On the falsely smiling, front-covered face of its “hero,” a study of Joseph Stalin, written by a désabusé stylist. Has the author of The War Against Cliché shunned the obvious and found a good word for an old tyrant? He managed to make comedy, of a kind, out of Auschwitz, in Time’s Arrow, didn’t he? (Did he?) Here, Martin Amis eschews show-boating: his Stalin is the monster we all know about, plus a sprinkle of chef’s home-grown ginger.

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